:: Article

Darling, It Was An Uphill Battle Loving You

By Fawzy Zablah.

She was addicted to Crack Cocaine when I met her. It was the second week of November 2001 and I arrived in Miami with half my marbles and $200 in my pocket. I celebrated my forty-fifth birthday on the Greyhound bus from Philadelphia. Everything that comes before Miami, of course, precedes me, and there’s a whole lot of it, of which I won’t go into, only that my life had gone extremely lousy after a catastrophic divorce a couple of months back to a woman that will go unnamed. She won everything but my underwear in the legal fight. So after losing my home, my kid, pretty much everything that meant anything, I just got up and left. Why Miami? Why the not? If I ever do write about those days I will call it My Life The Divorce By John Martin. And yes, yes, I am a man with two first names.
I left Philadelphia beat by life about as much as a man can be. My only possessions: Injured spirit, a tote bag with 3 pairs of blue jeans, 4 t-shirts, a paperback copy of 1984 by George Orwell, and pictures of my first daughter Darlene, who lives in Missouri.
The moon shone with white immensity when I first saw her on Eighth Street. She had big breasts and dirty blond hair with a gap between her two chipped front teeth. She wore a faded red t-shirt with no bra. You could see her big nipples, and I fell in love with them, but her face was dirty, and she had a thin scar that ran down her upper lip to her left eye.
I asked her how much and she said eighty bucks. I battered her sweet little pussy down to fifty and it was on. Before I knew it, I was fucking her in the ass in a crack house. After I was done with my business she kissed my chest and asked me to wait for her. Not even five minutes later the whore was back with some crack and the bitch started cooking it right in front of me like nothing. I had done some before and despised the bleach-like smell. She offered me a hit and I took it hoping she would offer me some loving too. It was almost like looking into a mirror. I saw John Martin in her sad, addicted eyes and I acknowledged it, and decided then and there that I should save her. The whore became my mission and let me tell you I have not once in my life ever had a mission except to drink. But the thought of caring for someone other than myself appealed to me greatly and I promised to die a Saint. We fucked three times afterwards and as she rolled on my chest I asked her name. “What’s your name, you sweet little thing?”
“My name,” she said. “You wants to know my name? After all this time of you sticking your dick in my pussy?”
I smiled my Hollywood smile.
“My name is Soledad,” she said, kissing me.
“Say what?”
“It’s Spanish. My mother was half Cuban. It means solitude.”
“That’s a pretty name.”
“And yours?”
“My name is John.”
I said it with a drawl like if I didn’t really want her to catch it.
“You also have a pretty name John.”
“Thank you darling.”
“How does John and Soledad sound to you? Doesn’t it sound like the name of an classic movie with kings and queens and dragons?”
Her breadth smelled like a critter had crawled inside her and died. Her beautiful tits gave balance to my situation. I looked into her finished eyes and smiled. Life was good. I was in Miami. God loves us all. Amen.
Soledad was born in the city of Hialeah in 1972. Her father died in Pensacola never getting to meet his daughter. How he died, she never told me. The girl started going bad at around sixteen when her boyfriend got her pregnant. The baby was put up for adoption and then the boy left her and she got on crack. Perhaps not in that order.
Soledad’s history was of getting on stuff. She got on top of many guys during high school. She got on Marijuana at a boy’s house in South Miami. She got on Cocaine while at a girlfriend’s party in Miami Beach. She got on Heroin during a road trip to Disney World in a Candy Green Volkswagen Fox with a boy she once thought she couldn’t live without. She got on Acid too while loving three older guys she met when she started stripping. That time, she ended up naked and alone on top of a bridge in Biscayne Bay. And finally, she got on Crack, on and off, with her ex, Felix, a Colombian with a penchant for cock fighting. Felix left her with her addictions and his roosters in a broken, abandoned house they both shared in a seedy side of Eighth Street. That was the same house where she ended up taking me after our mutual monetary agreement.
The house was very sad like its tenant. It had yellow paint pealing off the walls with a lawn that resembled a Central American jungle. There were all sorts of critters in that motherfucker. Once you went past its creaking front porch you found yourself in a trashy living room with a mustard green sofa under huge piles of news papers and a broken television.
And as I sat in that sad excuse for a living room watching her go about the room searching for a baggy of weed, which she truly believed in the most earnest way was under something that would lead to another thing, I, like all other folk who watch potential lovers move about their own rooms searching for baggies, which a baggy of weed really is just salvation, I came into a place in my heart and it was a place of perfect beautiful un-selfishness, and that was the very first in my life so I hugged that motherfucking feeling and kept it close to my self and dug it deep into my heart and yes, yes, yes, lord, I’m gonna save this bitch by showing her that life is a game and we don’t all have to win but that’s okay Jesus, that’s okay.
The first idea that popped into mind after that very free verse moment was that I couldn’t possibly save this girl until I had some cash money. So I went and got a job at a car wash. The car wash was called Busy Bubbles and was located on US1. US1 being the main highway in Miami, I found it simple to get to my employment by taking the #8 bus to 27th and then taking a second bus to US1. It cost two dollars and fifty cents for the trip one way. I was officially down to $148.50
My boss was a former University of Florida line backer who destroyed his budding football career by skipping too many classes to do cocaine with a future Miami Beach plastic surgeon. The guy would attend class lectures wired on blow! For some reason in my life, I have always had to deal with people that had some thing or other to do with some kind of version of cocaine. I once read that cocaine was a timeless drug.
The salary was $5.25 an hour and you got paid at the end of the week in cash. The bastard would always be short too and I fucking hated that.
“I’m kind of short John. Remind me I owe you 50 okay?”
“…”
“Okay motherfucker?…Remind me.”
“Sure boss. You’ll have it by tomorrow?”
“Just remind me man.”
That’s how it always went with this fool. It was always about next time. But it was a job and I’d rather have one than not. The other thing I didn’t like about it was having to deal with my Mexican and black co-workers. They’d be talking to damn much. Never working and always yapping about something or other. My bitch this, my bitch that, did you listen to that new Jay something or other song. How is Mama’s Fried Chicken and biscuits? It wasn’t a stereotype it was the God’s honest truth. As far as the Mexicans went, well most of them didn’t even know English so it made me paranoid cause I thought they was talking about me all the time. There was only one Mexican that spoke English and his name was Felipe. I was the only white guy there, other than the boss, and it was a lonely time.
By the time I got home at night all sun burned and beat there was no energy for Crack or fucking. Besides, Soledad would smoke everything. I would lay on the ugly couch and she’d be on the floor. After a half-hour of me just sleeping she’d wake up and say, “I love you John Martin. I love you honey. You my angel.”
I only gave her a little bit of money and would punish her if she brought back more crack than food. Every time she fucked up I would give her less. I was an evil motherfucker!
On those sad nights when we ran out of everything she would stay up late into the morning begging me for money. We’d have rough sex and if I didn’t give her dough she would get angry and throw shit at me. She’d throw stuff like wall clocks and the roosters. There were two roosters and she named them Brad Pitt and George Clooney. I believe she threw the dark one at me, George Clooney, on many nights. After wearing herself out, the begging would begin. She would lay on her knees and try to please me orally but by that time I was sick of her shit. She’d give me the meanest stare and blah, blah, blah all fucking night.
“You don’t fucking love me? Mother fucker, you don’t fucking love me! Please baby, please. I need it baby. Just a dollar. I know you have it. I’ll pay you back.”
Then she’d threaten me with putting out on Flagler. Something that she only did when she was totally desperate and was at her last option. That’s how we met, remember?
“I will do it motherfucker! I will do it. I will fuck someone motherfucker. I ‘m a go to Flagler motherfucker. You don’t love me. I am go right now Cabron.”
And sometimes she did. She’d storm off going a few blocks down the street to a regular I knew. He was an Arab that ran a convenient store. He felt sorry for her and didn’t mind getting head. After getting paid, she’d make her quick drug purchase from a ghost riding a bicycle and be on her way to smoke that crack at the park. I knew all these things because people had seen her and they told me. They told me how she would wander the streets in the middle of the night looking like a crack whore should look. They told me how she played her part well and how in the park the smoke that rose from her pipe was like her spirit ascending to heaven. They told me about her eyes and how they wouldn’t recognize love ever and how I was wasting my time and I just didn’t listen. I didn’t listen.
I met her in November. By February, I had saved enough money to get us out of the crack house. We ended up getting a one bedroom apartment on 7th for $650 a month. I had moved up through the car wash hierarchy, and was now running the motherfucker. Getting some good cash and telling the Mexicans and brothers what to do. It felt good to be responsible and to return to society. I didn’t question it, but I was scared to death that I would fall back. I still got drunk after work but cut it down to 3 times a week. It was the magic three. That’s what I called it. I usually ended up at my coworker Felipe’s trailer and would smoke dope and get drunk on malt liquor and laugh at his fat ass wife in her damn face. Marijuana will do that to you. Plus she was the fattest woman that I ever had the pleasure of being in the presence of. This woman could eat like no man could. I once saw her eat three racks of ribs in no less than six damn minutes. She sucked on each bone like a porn star in a three-way.
Felipe was a tall burly Mexican that entered the country illegally in 1986. He met Jenna, his piglet, at the Homestead rodeo and saw the chance to better his status and took it. Motherfucker loves fat bitches. Motherfucker doesn’t care. He was also a worldly individual that had lived in Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, El Salvador, and London. A job whore like me, he’d virtually done everything imaginable from dish washing to cattle wrangling at Florida ranches. We had mutual respect on the basis of similar life experiences. He’d been married before too and he shared in my drunken laments. He had long hair like a Sioux Indian and his body was marked with gang tattoos and scars on his face. He was definitely my Tonto. Don’t tell him I said that.
But anyway, one day I was walking to the bus stop and a short brother that was selling M&Ms handed me a flier that read:
TOTAL RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE!
Are you hooked on drugs or know someone who is?
First: Call on the Lord Jesus Christ
Second: Call us
United Church of the Creator Ministries
We are a ministry committed to rescuing drug addicts
Through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Nation-Wide Coast to Coast

Men and Women’s recovery homes available

So I thought to myself, Jesus never hurt nobody. Soledad’s first day at rehab was more like half a day. She went in and out. Reverend Houston Carter Johnson III told me to give her time that she had to gain everybody’s trust. He said that she was like an injured bird or a shy rabbit that needed to be shown a carrot.
“The carrot of Jesus. Jesus’s carrot. She needs to have a picture of the carrot in her mind and that will lead her to the Lord and in turn into her own salvation. Now you bring that little girl on over. Bring her one day first, then two, and then three. And she will be saved because the Lord is good and the Lord loves us all and we are not perfect, and we are all far from perfect, and…”
He kept going and I drifted off to look over Reverend Carter’s shoulder and see Soledad weeping on the last step of the church. It wasn’t really a step but she made a step of it. She should have been on the second step. She was really on the floor. Isn’t that our whole lives, crying on the wrong step?
“-she is a soft little thing with a big gap between her teeth but you know she has a bigger gap in her heart and we gonna fill that gap cause that is what we do here Mr.
Martin. We are the servers of the Lord, the food runners of the Lord and the busboys of the Lord always cleaning up the mess for when the master gets home.”
“Got it.”
“Wanna get a drink?”
“Sure.”
The most days Soledad went was four days a week. She fell in love with the family. That’s how she put it to me.
“They all care about me so much. And you know what they call me honey?”
“What baby?”
“They call me their little white tramp. Their little white tramp of hope. I don’t think they have had anybody as white as me. They’ve had Puerto Ricans and Cubans but no one like me. Did you know, my mother had the complexion on an Angel?”
Little by little, she started changing. It wasn’t fast but it hit me from nowhere. Before I knew it she stopped begging me for money or asking people for dollars. Crack heads always be asking people for dollars. Just one dollar. Some days I had to pay people to keep an eye on her at rehab. She would skip out a lot. She would fall off the wagon but any time that happened I would just give her less and less attention and money. There were times where I would just fuck her like crazy so she’d forget the drug. Fucking somebody all day may sound like fun but when you get to be my age it becomes job.
It took Soledad six months to finish rehab. As a gift, I got her a whole make over. She went to the graduation ceremony wearing a light blue dress. She looked so damn beautiful and I told her so. At one point, in the middle of the ceremony, she looked for me in the audience and her soft brown eyes lit me up like a rocket on the Fourth of July. Things were looking up.

So one night I’m so fucking drunk and high on weed discussing these same exact things with Felipe and his obese wife in their tiny living room. We were listening to Felipe’s old school reggae mix. Old Upsetters stuff.
“Yeah man. She wanna get a job and shit.”
Felipe took a hit from the Homer Simpson bong. “No way man.”
“Yeah man.”
“That’s fucking great man,” he said, then coughing. “The world works in mysterious ways.”
“Yeah I can’t believe it.”
“Oh shit. I meant the Lord works in mysterious ways. What the fuck did I say?”
“You said the ‘Lord’ honey,” Said his wife.
“No, he said the world. You dumb bitch!”
We all laughed. Except his wife. She didn’t find it funny.
“How da fuck,” his fat wife said to his face. ”You gonna let this motherfucker call your wife a dumb bitch?”
“Yeah man, fuck you man I love her.”
We all laughed again except her.
“I’m sorry man,” I said. “I’m sorry Felipe’s wife.”
“Fuck you,” she said, standing up and walking off to a bedroom.
“So yeah man, she gonna get a job.”
“What she wanna do?”
“The only thing she know how to do. Strip.”
“No way. She used to be a stripper man?”
“Yeah,” I said, taking one last good hit for the walk home.
“Can I go see her man?”
“Fuck you motherfucker.”
“Are you serious?”
“Nah go head. I don’t give a fuck. She wanna get a job at this place called the Dandy Pony.”
The Dandy Pony was the black people’s strip club and it was also in the worst part of the north west section of Miami. It was a small club that looked like somebody’s ghetto house. They had a free barbeque in the patio. When Soledad was hired, she became the token white bitch and she loved the attention that position got her. I automatically became the token white stripper’s boyfriend that drops her off for the evening shift. You know that guy, drives a red Camaro? Except I was at that time driving a 93′ Honda civic that I got for $850 at a used car lot on West Flagler. It sucked because I was on call all morning. She’d call me at 5 or 6 in the morning on a work day and we’d go have breakfast at Denny’s with her co-workers. Sometimes it was just us two, and I enjoyed those times better.
I have very fond memories of that period. There were nice feelings in my heart-the obvious sister feelings of my last feeling in her living room. And even then, for some reason, I knew it wouldn’t last forever and I knew I better enjoy it-I felt omens flying all around me. We were a happy little couple that only cared about making each other smile. I swear to you that there were no puzzles to solve.
Three months after her first stripping job and being clean from crack she told me she was moving to another club called Pachanga Time. It was located on another ghetto part of Miami, on NW 179th St. It was a high class club compared to the Dandy Pony but it was still mostly black bitches dancing. Soledad was one of 2 white bitches dancing in that motherfucker. The rest were Cuban or Puerto Rican. It was a pink building and they charged ten dollars to get in.
The first day I picked her up, I bumped into a tall, stocky brother wearing a white hat and white suit. His face pot marked with acne scars and he was so dark I thought that he could have been Haitian. But anyway, I ran into his left shoulder as I went in to look for Soledad. It wasn’t anyone in particular’s fault, but it sure was a clash. Since he was with his girls and boys I understood the attitude but he could never understand me.
“Watch out Cracker.”
“What you say,” I said, turning around.
“I said, move, boy.”
I got in his face. Looking up at him cause he was taller. “Who you calling boy?”
His boys got around me. They were five of them. All Negroes. I clenched my right fist and looked the flashy Negro deep in his eyes and I knew the motherfucker was rough. But if I could take out three of his boys, I could probably sucker punch him in the eyes and kick him in the balls and he would be out. I had been in 7 situations like this in my whole life.
The first one was in South Philly with a group of five Puerto Rican coke dealers. They whistled at one of my girls and there was a stand off just like this one. I broke two noses, and demolished two nut sacks that time. I got off with a stabbing in my left leg and a broken front tooth. But they never fucked with me again. Those motherfuckers.
The second one was in Japan, when I was in the army. It was a gang of four samurai hoodlums and I got a broken nose and a head concussion. They caught me off guard with pipes and chains. I broke the leader’s right arm that time though. The third time was in Delaware at a drug dealer’s house. They were trying to scam my girlfriend at that time, a sexy white chick from Boston named Brandy. I got shot three times with a 22. Once in the Pelvis and twice in my leg-the right leg. Shattered the bone.
So we stood there staring at each other in the front entrance of Pachanga Time just like a stand off at the O.K. Corral except for were getting to the point where somebody wasn’t gonna be okay.
“Man, Octavios forget this cracker,” said one of his boys. “We ain’t got time man. We got to be there before eight!”
The tall negroe Octavios did not break the stare. My eyes stayed with him too. Most white people are scared of brothers. But I was scared of nothing, I had fought with the best of them. I was natural and quick and I didn’t give a fuck how tall you were or how many of your boys you had with you.
Octavios looked me up and down and smiled. My stare continued. He turned and kept walking with his boys and as he walked he unveiled the holster that held his gun and all I could hear was laughing from his friends. I sighed and walked into the club to wait for Soledad.
I stood inside for a minute starring at the black girls, shaking their ass. Black girls can sure shake their ass. Those times were my first real encounter with black beauty. I had secretly become a sister lover. Then Soledad walked into my view point and handed me her bag.
“Hey baby,” she said, kissing me in the cheek.
“Hey,” I said, and we walked out.
“You okay, baby? You seem tired.”
“I’m good, sweety,” I said and got her and myself and her bags in the car and didn’t mention the incident to her.
When we got home, we got naked and ate popcorn in bed while watching Saturday Night Live reruns on the “E” Network. My dick was limp and then she made it hard by rubbing it softly and kissing it with her gorgeous lips. We fucked, made love, whatever, for about 45 minutes. I felt old, and we caught the end of the show, SNL, sweaty, with me on top of her smelling her funk, her lovely funk, as the piano played and the host and cast were saying goodbye over that beautiful jazzy, almost melancholy, sax playing at the end.
I placed my tired old head on her nice ample bosom and closed my eyes. That was the very one time I paid attention to her heart beat. It beat, like a boat sinking and waves crashing. It beat, that sweet rebellious heart of hers, like the rubber of bad tires over a worn highway. I felt doom. I felt doom. God knows I felt doom.

Then one day, like relationships like these go, you know, deflating right before you! One muggy morning, at a Denny’s restaurant with Shakara and Lexus-two black girls from the club, I got the first “construction up a head” sign. They were all gossiping about other whores in the club. And then she busts out, my sweet daft angel of heavenly mist, with, as she’s sucking on her milk shake with her straw, she says, something like, her exact words I believe, and to me, it was like a blimp coming down in flames, because I know these things, and she’s like the cookie cutter copy of all the past whores I’ve loved, and anyway, she says, in that drawl, that drunk drawl, because she has to be drunk to rub her pussy on guy’s cocks, she says, the bitch says, she says, “Octavios, he be coming up to me, he be saying, ‘damn Soledad, I be thinking about you, we good friends, we should have them benefits, we should borrow each other for pleasure. Isn’t he crazy? Isn’t that funny baby, he wants me to be his friends with benefits. Can you believe that honey? What you think Shakara? Didn’t you be with him girl? Didn’t you used to be with him that night, at that Jamaica motel in Flagler?”
I think whore and say, “past me the ketchup, please?” You fucking whore. You fuck that nigger and I will cut your throat shit eating whore. “Who’s Octavios?”
“You know, that guy with the acne in his face. He part owner.”
Yes. “No, I don’t recall, darling. Are you going to eat your hash browns baby?” Whore. Whore. Whore. Whore.
“Baby,” she said, passing me the ketchup. “You can have my Hash baby.” We made eye contact. Shakara and Lexus sensed the tension.
“So should I be worried about this Octavios? Are you trading your old boy for a new panther?”
“Baby! I love it when you get jealous. It shows you care.”
“Just following your script baby. You writing it as we go along, remember?”
“Oh’ John, you so funny darling. Give me a kiss you fool.”
She reached her lips over to me and I kissed them and I felt nothing. Shakara and Lexus smiled.
Here is the thing. When you are in love with a woman that makes a living by taking off her clothes you have to be in some kind of denial. Specially if you’re a nice boy. And nice boys have no business going out with strippers. Strippers have way more emotional experience and know the game, excuse me, invented the game of fucking with a man’s head. They control you from the onset. They make you think one thing and then they switch. They are worse than a regular woman. Because it comes down to this: When she comes home from work at 5 or 6 in the morning, you will kiss her in the lips and well, she just rubbed and sucked on so many other boy’s penises. And if you’re a nice boy, you will push those things to the back of your mind. It’s sad to say, but some ruined nice boys will never truly know love.
But I didn’t care because she was a whore before. I figured by this time next year she would just be working at Hooters or something. She was downgrading. Or are a stripper and a street hooker the same thing?
So when the signs where there I chose to ignore them. Stuff like she’d be at her friend’s the whole night and day. You know what it’s like to come home at seven-dead tired from work and you’re woman ain’t there. No food. No loving. No nothing. That bitch is either at her friend’s or dancing for guys at the club. Hell I ain’t gonna complain about the money she made. The money was great. We’d go to Red Lobster every fucking Wednesday and she’d pay. If you turned the volume down, our arguments seemed like stellar day time television arguments. But if you really paid attention you’d notice they were non arguments about shit like why didn’t you throw out the trash. Or stuff like we always eating out. I tell you, if you gonna marry a woman you make sure she cooks or you enroll your ass in Johnson and Wales. We’d fight and make up. It was up and down. It was never just straight. We was getting on better when the bitch was on crack.
Then one night I went to pick her up at Pachanga Time and the relationship started smelling so rotten that other people began to notice. I went to the bar and ordered a Scotch. Lexus saw me from across the bar and walked over with a cigaret. She sat next to me and gave me a kiss in the cheek. I sat with my arms over each other and my lonesome baby blue eyes barely looking at her but instead anxious for the drink.
“Would you like one John?”
I grabbed a cigaret and put it in my mouth. As she lit it, she gave me a huge smile. Lexus was from Atlanta. A nice lovely black woman with a body to kill for. She was trying to be an actress. I could tell she had a good heart. It was all in the eyes.
“You look depressed,” she said, facing me.
“Nah, just tired. Work is a bitch.”
“You can talk to me, John.”
“I know, but I’m okay.”
I put my cigaret on the ashtray. The bartender brought the scotch and I took a sip. Lexus whispered in my ear.
“You are the coolest white man I have ever met.”
“You serious?”
“Hell yeah. You are a cool motherfucker. I can’t pin you, but I’m trying to figure it out.”
She paused to suck on her cigaret. She ordered an Apple Martini from the bartender and looked at me.
“Shit nigga,” she said, laughing. “It’s closing time!”
We both laughed. The bartender brought the Martini and she took a sip and then she addressed me.
“Are you, and Soledad, doing okay?”
“What makes you think we aren’t?”
“Cause I know these things. I am a people watcher. I can sense things.”
“Just same old shit you know. Relationship problems.”
“Relationship problems?”
“Yeah, stupid shit.”
“You know John, I know we don’t know each other that well. We are friends by association. But I know a good man when I see one.”
“You calling me a good man?”
“I call them like I see them baby.”
“I ain’t that good. You should have seen me four years ago. I don’t think I ever been all that good I usually come to the conclusion that I have fallen short every time. Specially when it comes to my kids. And that’s a damn bitter liquor to swallow sister.”
She gave me the biggest smile and then grabbed my right hand. Her hand was warm and soft and it comforted me. The smile was the kind of smile to make the sun rise over the night.
“You know what my daddy said to me once? He told me, you know how you can tell a good man from a bad man? A bad man thinks he is always right. He never questions himself. And my daddy, he was a saint. Worked two jobs for his six kids until he died from a stroke. Makes you wonder don’t it? Why do we love to suffer?”
I thought about what she told me. She continued.
“You know you deserve the best?”
“You think?”
“Shit, I know.”
“That’s your opinion.”
“Think about it John and you’ll know what I’m talking about.”
I didn’t want to think about anything except her big brown eyes. Lexus had the prettiest brown eyes I had ever seen on a black girl. They were loud with color and damn were they sweet. She was an Egyptian queen.
Across the room I saw Soledad coming to the bar and then Octavios grabbed her and started whispering something in her ear. They were too close. Lexus looked at them and then looked at me. Lexus kissed my cheek again and said “Remember you’re a star baby.” She walked away with Martini and cigaret in hand towards a short Chinese Jamaican in a Kongo hat. I remained at the bar looking at Soledad with the owner Octavios. He was whispering a goddamn novel in her ear. He kissed her cheek and then she came over to me. We didn’t kiss or nothing. No words. We just walked to the parking lot and got in the car. I drove and she laid her seat back.
“Can you pass by 7Eleven. I need to get a snack or something. I’m just so tired, baby.”
“Sure,” I said, and kept on looking at the road.

Who am I to judge a woman’s position in this world? I am not a good man. People like me. But is that good currency? It’s actually the best currency but if you’re a fucking dumb ass does it really matter? The Pope can love me, but If I make stupid decisions and not take advantage of opportunities what good am I? Then I disappear and become a good story to tell. That’s all I’ll be. Remember John? Great fucking friend! I wonder whatever happened to him. Last I heard he was somewhere in Florida married and working at a car wash or something. He most surely is wondering around the south, Lord knows he got sick of the Philadelphia Winters. That was a beautiful man, John was.
She had been bitching about a Salsa club called Hoy Como Ayer for I don’t know how long. She always went with her friends, but she wanted me to go this time. The club is on eight street and I promised her we’d go. We arrived around ten and watched Willie Chirino’s band play. I ordered some drinks, and we danced and drank. She always criticized my salsa dancing. She hated it. But I tried. We just weren’t talking any more. I popped kissed her and she slapped me. I was drunk and gave her an angry look. After some time of watching her dance with a short Cuban I went to the restroom and took a piss. When I came out, she was dancing with Octavios. My heart fell on the dance floor and bounced outside to eight street and it most surely got run over. I couldn’t tell you for sure. He twirled her around like an expert. I sat at our table and watched them. He was getting closer to her every time. When he began that whispering in her ear shit I stood up and walked over to them. She stopped and introduced me.
“This is my boyfriend John.”
“We met,” he said, smiling.
“Really?”
“Excuse me friend,” I said, getting in between them. “It’s my turn.”
“Don’t be rude John!”
“How,” I said. “How am I being rude? I said, ‘excuse me’.”
“You’re drunk. Please don’t touch me.”
“What baby?”
“We’re going, come on. You embarrassing me.”
Octavios kissed her in the cheek. I smiled at him.
When we got home, she locked herself in the bedroom. I could hear she was on the phone. She was talking to him. I didn’t know what to feel. It hurt like hell still, I wanted to listen to the whole damn conversation. So I got up from the sofa and stood next to the door trying not to lean on it. I was so drunk I had to come down cause my ears were still ringing from the club. It was like BOOM. BOOM.. BOOM… Boom…. Boom….. Boom……boom……..
And then I could hear. I believe to this day that there was muffled talk about dancing, holding hands, kissing, and meeting him after work. But I didn’t need to hear the exact details, because I recognized the intimacy in her voice, and I was sold.
I couldn’t take it anymore and broke the motherfucking door. I grabbed the cell phone from her hands and pushed the buttons trying to hang it up.
“What the hell are you doing? Get away, John! You’re drunk John.”
“Who the fuck are you talking to, huh? Who the fuck are you calling at this time?”
She slapped me in the face and I threw the phone on the floor and walked out of the room. She closed the door and continued talking on the phone screaming. Twenty minutes later she came out with a suit case.
“I’m leaving. I want my work clothes, I left my bag in the car. Please open the trunk.”
I led her to the car and gave her the bag. She walked out to the side walk. I said, “Goodbye whore” and walked into the apartment and sat in the sofa. In five minutes I got up and put some pants on and got in my car. I found her still walking down the neighborhood and stopped next to her.
“I’m sorry baby. Please get in the car.”
“No! Leave me alone. You hit me!”
“What? I didn’t hit you!”
“Please go. You are such an asshole.”
“Baby, please don’t say that. Please get in the car. I love you Soledad. You know I love you. Baby, please. Get in the fucking car.”
“Goodbye John.”
“Okay, that’s what you want. Bye then.”
I made a U turn, and in the rear view mirror, I noticed Octavio’s Cadillac Escalade pick her up. I sped home and broke all her shit. Trashing the whole fucking room and ripping every photograph of us. I even threw out Brad Pitt and George Clooney but the fucking roosters didn’t want to leave and lingered for a long while in front of the apartment. After I came down, I called Felipe. The phone rang 5 times and his fat wife picked up.
“Hello?”
“Is Felipe there?”
“Is that you John?”
“Yes, can I talk to your husband?”
“Why you calling so late”
“Can you just fucking pass me with him.”
“He sleeping.”
“Can you wake him up?”
“But-“
”I really need to talk to him.”
“Okay, hold on.”
Felipe came on.
“What’s up, brother?”
“This fucking whore left.”
“No way, Soledad left?”
“She left with the nigga from the club.”
“What happened, dude?”
I told him the whole story and I’m sure I cried a couple of times too. After it was over I said we had to go kick his ass. I told him that after tomorrow she will love a nigga with a broken face.
“Are you down Felipe? We get some bats and maybe a gun and fuck this nigga up?”
“Hell yeah, I’m down. But, hold up, when you wanna do this?”
“Tomorrow night. When he leaves the club to do his drug shit.”
“I’m down nigga. I’m down for sure. I haven’t fucked a nigga up in so long I miss that shit! I’m getting excited just thinking about it.”
“I hear you. I hear you. You know I appreciate this brother?”
“I know, brother. That’s why we’re friends right? If we ain’t got each other who do we have man?”
“That’s what I’m saying.”

On Sunday night we waited in Felipe’s black Honda for Octavios to arrive at the club. He had tinted windows so we were cool. We were parked in the empty side of the parking lot facing the club from the North East. Felipe was smoking a Dutch and blew the smoke out his window. He was playing “War in A Babylon” by Max Romeo and the Upsetters. He had it on repeat.
“He usually have five of his boys with him. Are you sure you up to this?”
“Hell yeah,” said Felipe. “If you only saw the neighborhoods I grew up in. Nigga, I have been jumped by a whole gang of Mara Salvatrucha!”
“What the fuck is that?”
“That’s a crazy gang from Central America. They crazy. They be cutting people’s heads off and shit.”
“No way.”
“Shit, yeah. But a lot of them were my friends so we was cool most of the time. You know how it is, you gotta make some allegiance when you grow up in a rough neighborhood.”
“I hear you.”
A silver Toyota truck parked near the club. I recognized it. It was Lexus’ car. She came out looking real nice with some tight ass jeans. Felipe stared at her and could not keep his eyes away from her.
“Lord, have mercy. Who is that?”
“That’s Lexus.”
“No,” he said. “That’s a Toyota.”
“No dude, her name is Lexus.”
“For real? That is one fine black woman. Damn, I got to start coming here.”
Lexus kissed the door man in the cheek and walked her lovely little booty inside the club. Good, cause I didn’t want her to see none of this. Afterwards, Octavios pulled up in his white Cadillac Escalade.
“Heads up,” I said, pointing to the vehicle. “That’s Octavios.”
He got off with his boys and started talking to a couple of dudes that were waiting. Felipe followed them closely with his eyes sizing up the entire crew.
“That’s him? Nigga is kind of big. He got four fools with him. We cool. Except for that other fat motherfucker. You see him?”
“Yeah, I see him.”
“We gonna have to kick him in the balls or something.”
“You, ready?”
“Born ready,” he said, putting the gun in his pocket.
“Let’s do this!”
We got out fast and ran up at them like 2 crazy Seminoles rushing up on Spanish settlers. Felipe hit one in the back of the head with his brass rings. The brother went to the ground and didn’t know what hit him. I pushed my flat right hand into the nose of one fool standing next to Octavios. I hit him so hard he was bleeding holding his face. A third fool pulled a gun out. Felipe responded to this by taking out his own revolver and taking one of the small dudes hostage. It was a sweet stand off.
Felipe held on to him tight with the barrel on his temple.
“I’ll shoot this motherfucker right here yo.”
Octavios looked at his boy with the gun and told him to put it down. He looked at me.
“You are crazy cracker! You know how close to dying you are. You is a fucking fool. All this over a fucking whore. Guess what son? She mine now”
I stared at him.
“Are we going to do this or not?”
“You came for it,” he said. “Now you going to get it.”
Octavios took off his white jacket. He unbuttoned the top of his pink shirt.
“You,” he said, pointing at Felipe. “Let him go and we going to do this old school. This between you and me cracker. Just you and me.”
I looked at Felipe. He let go of the hostage and put the gun away. Everyone gathered around in a circle. I got into my boxing stance. People from inside the club started coming out. He took off his jewelry and we danced around the circle feeling each other out. Nobody threw any punches or did anything for at least ten minutes. Just two street fighters dancing in the middle of a circle of people.
I finally got sick of the shit and threw my first jab. I missed and he got me in the ribs with a right. It was a good strong punch. It vibrated throughout my body. I knew I was in for the fight of my life.
He tried to get me with a fake jab and quick right but the motherfucker missed. Too bad to, because if he would have made contact, I’d be on the floor now. I got him back with an uppercut and it stung him. Even his boys were shocked. I then said to myself, hell with this and hit him with a quick hard right in the face. His nose was bleeding. He paused for a second and smiled at his boys. He then jumped at me like a Bengal tiger knocking me to the floor and he unleashed all he had on me. I have never been hit so hard. It was a shower of hits to my head and chest. He just kept on with fists of fury and that’s all I remember, and then I went unconscious.

When I came to, I was laid out in the back seat of Felipe’s car and there was blood everywhere. Lexus was sitting in the passenger seat. Blood was pouring out of my mouth. I think I was coughing blood. Lexus put her hand on my leg as Felipe drove.
“Don’t worry, baby. We almost at the hospital John. Just hold on. Alright, baby?”
I went under again. I was fighting it but it was useless. Then I made eye contact with Lexus and I fought for a few more minutes before going under again.

Octavios broke my jaw, my nose, and three ribs. Not to mention I had to get some stitches on my forehead. According to the doctors, it turns out I’m just a big bleeder. It took me about five and a half months to recover. I did most of that with Felipe and his wife at their trailer. Me and Lexus started getting really close after that. But still, I just couldn’t get over Soledad that easily so on a Wednesday night without telling anybody I decided to go see her at this new club she was working at. It turns out, according to Lexus, that she was now exclusively Octavios’ girl. My heart hurt more than my face did.
I showed up around 9:30 and ordered a Rum and coke at the bar. I sat through ten girls before she showed up. She saw me and came up to me.
“Hello John,” she said, kissing me in the cheek. “How are you?”
“I’m doing good.”
“You look good.”
“Yes. I just want to tell you that I didn’t come here to beg you to come back to me or anything. I just wanted to talk.”
“Well talk.”
“Was it that bad? Did I treat you badly, baby?”
“No, John, you did not treat me badly. But you really do deserve better than me.”
She looked into my eyes and kissed me again.
“I hope we can be friends,” she said, getting up and going to dance.
I stopped drinking the rum and pushed it away. I called the bartender while Soledad danced through her first song. I ordered a virgin Pina Colada. The bartender smiled. I got my drink and watched Soledad undress for her second song. She really worked the poll. She went up and down it. She climbed up higher every time and then slid down upside down at full speed with her long beautiful legs wrapped around it. The pole was at least 10 feet tall. She had become an expert. I was impressed. I took out a dollar from my pocket. She came over to me and I put the dollar in her panties. I felt sad because not too long ago that same vagina was free to me.
Prodigy’s ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ was playing. I could tell she wanted to make a big show for the end of the song. She went up the pole to its highest point. And all of us lonely boys sitting around the bar looked up like if we were at the air show staring at the Blue Angels. Everybody was excited. You didn’t see many girls go up that high up the pole. Soledad began to come down fast in correlation with the song. She was coming down too fast but I trusted her judgement. Her body fell fast, upside down, and it didn’t stop until her head hit the floor and everyone heard a crack. And my Soledad, my beautiful Soledad lay limp in the middle of the bar. People were screaming, running to her. The bartender, a sweet looking redhead covered her mouth like if she was about to throw up. A tall Cuban guy that was a doctor or something jumped the bar and tried to do CPR. I just simply got up and left. It was a hot and humid night and I walked in it until I reached my car on the other side of the street.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Fawzy Zablah was born in El Salvador and raised in Miami. His work has appeared at Litvision, Muslimwakeup.com and Girls With Insurance. He also wrote a short story book called Ciao! Miami and is a fiction editor for 3:AM.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, June 13th, 2007.